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Osorezan The Gateway to Hell

Eerie. Sulfuric. Hissing. A few of the words used in our travel guide, and more intriguing than those of a typical Japanese destination. We headed north to the Aomori prefecture to witness these curious adjectives first hand.

Once in Mutsu, we boarded the local bus to Mt. Osorezen. The road up the mountain proved scenic. Subtly, quietly, slow chanting was piped through the buses intercom, electronic ghosts in the crackling of broken speakers. A glance at the only other foreigner we'd seen for half a week brought a moment of comfort as we shared a similar edition of the Lonely Planet. Comrades via travelogue!

The brakes squeaked in discordant harmony and there was an unannounced, (or perhaps announced - who knows) roadside stop to a mountain spring. The locals escaped the bus to fill waiting cups with cool water. Willing to try anything we participated in drinking. A sudden flash of potential intestinal regret, but we shrugged it off and returned to the crackling.

As the bus rolled to the top of the mountain the initial impression was normalcy, but then the breeze picked up and you could hear a squeaking rising in volume with the swirls of the gusts. We walked onto temple grounds and the pinwheels left behind by grieving parents came into view, thousands of colorful sticks whirling, some intact, some forced apart, others lying sideways on the rock cairns. The images viewed through a lens seemed limitless.

A few shooting hours later, hungry and completely windblown, we entered the only cafe for a cool ice cream treat. Was it ice cream? We don't know. It was cold... sorta. Paying the bill the waitress asked hastily, "Bus-Ka?" Without our answer she ran out of the restaurant flagging down the latest return ride into town. Many "X" hand gestures later we convinced her we were not ready to leave.

Going back for a second pass, there was still plenty of viewfinder and shutter exertion remaining. A few hundred exposures later the light turned into magic hour. Perfect! Unfortunately it was time to catch the final bus to Mutsu which was anxiously idling in the parking lot 500 meters away. Grabbing our gear and making a run for it we both saw the same "must have" image. Only one of us could get it while the other held the bus.

"You can do it, get the shot!"

I ran to the eerie statues silhouetted against the hissing sulphur sky. I fired the shutter 3 final times. Best shots of the day.



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